With one pitch and a few poorly chosen words, Cole Hamels proved two things on Sunday; older is not necessarily better, and there are no intelligence requirements to make $15 million a year. As reported in a story by ESPN, Hamels hit Washington Nationals super rookie Bryce Harper with a pitch and then proudly told reporters after the game that he had done so on purpose in the interest of “trying to continue the old baseball.”
It is true that hitting batters used to be a much more prominent aspect of baseball than it is today. The brush-back pitch, plunking in the back, and occasional bean ball were all ways for pitchers to protect the plate and their teammates when necessary. However, this was back when the game was much more unrefined and unregulated. Given a choice between playing now and playing in 1940, I dare say most players would rather play in today’s world of safer and more lucrative baseball. Some fans may fondly look to the past and believe baseball was a better game, but it doesn’t take much to refute such assertions.
Old fashioned baseball saw players discriminated against because of ethnicity and skin color, players sharpening their spikes with the intent to maim, and the majority of players having to get regular jobs during the off-season in order to make ends meet for themselves and their families. The myth that players from days gone by played purely for the love of baseball is just that, a fabrication designed to elevate the status of baseball in the schema of American culture. It is okay for players to play the game more safely, enjoy more training benefits, and make more money. That shouldn’t sully the enjoyment anyone takes from baseball. Although far from perfect, there is little doubt that baseball today is now in a much better place.
Pushing common sense aside, anyone with even an inkling of knowledge about economics would classify Hamel’s errant pitch as a major faux pas. Hamels is set to make $15 million this season and the average major league salary for 2012 will be in excess of $3 million. Intentionally throwing at someone is messing with their money and the investments of teams who can be in a precarious position when it comes to harvesting returns over the course of a contract. The purpose pitch to Harper was the equivalent of a batter charging the mound and slashing at the lefty’s pitching shoulder with his bat- something Hamels would likely not embrace in the spirit of old time baseball.
Hamels and the Phillies would be outraged if they knew for certain that somebody was throwing at one of their players or perhaps sliding a bit harder than usual into currently injured veterans like Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. The general rule of thumb is that you probably shouldn’t do something to someone else if you wouldn’t want it to happen to yourself. Baseball is not only a war of attrition, but it can also be about retribution, so Hamels best be prepared to reap what he has sown and hope that his poor decisions don’t come to haunt him or his teammates.
It will be shocking if Hamels doesn’t receive a suspension for hitting Harper. No matter how long it is, it probably won’t do much good because you can’t fix stupid. There is no other way to describe what Hamels did and said. With any luck he will realize the error of his ways and leave the glory days of baseball to oldtimers telling their stories. Fortunately Harper emerged unscathed from it all and even ended up stealing home that same inning. Talk about old school…
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